Applications for this PhD have now closed.
Location Griffith University, Griffith Criminology Institute
App. deadline 02/10/2018
  • Please enquire for further details
  • Scholarship available
Eligibility Open to international applicants

Maternal incarceration and children's developmental wellbeing

Griffith University hosts one of the largest, most vibrant, and high-performing criminology research communities in the world.  At the Griffith Criminology Institute (GCI) internationally-renowned scholars are collaborating in a broad range of areas to produce cutting edge knowledge that helps create safe, just, well-governed and equitable societies. Our research aims to address the major challenges that confront society and is organised around themes and projects which currently include: violence prevention, life course studies, prevention science, policing, corrections, innovative justice, procedural justice, vulnerable families, prosecutions, justice in the Asia-Pacific, investigative interviewing and countering violent extremism.

Prospective Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students are invited to apply for a PhD Scholarship with the Griffith Criminology Institute. Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Stipend Scholarship, Griffith University Postgraduate Research Scholarship and Griffith University Indigenous Australian Postgraduate Research Scholarship applications are currently open, closing Tuesday 2 October 2018. These Scholarship opportunities each provide a living allowance of approximately $27,082 (2018 rate, indexed annually) per annum. Tuition Scholarships are also available for international HDR candidates.

How to Apply

Prospective students should follow the process for submitting an online Scholarship application outlined on the Griffith University website;

GCI Scholarship Top-up Funding

To complement the Scholarships above, GCI is offering up to 5 Top-up Scholarships each valued at $6,000 per annum, paid in addition to the usual living allowance. Applicants must meet the University’s selection criteria for entry into the PhD programme and be awarded a living allowance Scholarship to qualify for the extra GCI Top-up funding.

All students who apply for a Scholarship with GCI will be considered for top-up funding. A pre-formulated project is outlined below and additional projects are outlined in this document: Students may also undertake any other HDR project within the Institute. All Scholarship applications will be considered via the usual round assessment process and top-ups will be awarded to the highest ranked GCI candidates in the Order of Merit.

Students must contact the supervisor or supervisory team by early-September 2018 to discuss the project and develop a research proposal for inclusion with the Scholarship application. Contact details for the supervisory teams of pre-formulated projects are provided below and students may contact our members directly to discuss projects and supervisory arrangements.

Other GCI PhD Scholarships and Top-ups

Additionally, GCI is proud to support the Tony Fitzgerald Top-up Scholarship, and the Nina Westera Scholarship in Adult Investigative Interviewing. Please see the following links for further information regarding these Scholarships:

Project Title:

Maternal incarceration and children’s developmental wellbeing

Supervisory Team:

Professor Susan Dennison (

Prof Dennison has extensive research experience on the impact of parental incarceration on the development and wellbeing of parents in prison, their children, and caregivers. More broadly, her research focuses on the contexts affecting children’s developmental systems and life outcomes as well as using evidence-based research to inform policy and prevention for at-risk children. She is an experienced PhD supervisor and is currently supervising three other PhD candidates on projects relating to parental incarceration. She is the lead Chief Investigator on the current ARC Discovery Project that this PhD project will contribute to; Maternal incarceration: Mechanisms of risk and resilience in children’s developmental contexts

Professor Lisa Broidy (

Prof Broidy is a Professor in sociology at the University of New Mexico, an Adjunct Professor in the Griffith Criminology Institute and a partner investigator on the current ARC Discovery Project. She is an internationally recognised scholar in developmental criminology, particularly in relation to the intersectionality of race and gender on offending pathways and outcomes.

An ECR associate supervisor may also be recruited to provide an opportunity for supervision mentoring and development.

Project Description:

Aims and Background: The PhD project will be part of the ARC Discovery Project – Maternal incarceration: Mechanisms of risk and resilience in children’s developmental contexts.

The number of female prisoners has increased 60% in the last decade, with over 2,800 women in prison. At least half of these women are mothers, and the impact of incarceration on their children is likely profound and enduring. Research on children of incarcerated fathers shows that negative impacts on children’s psychological and social competence contribute to early and chronic offending. As mothers are central to children’s developmental outcomes, the impacts of maternal incarceration should mirror or even eclipse those of paternal incarceration. But, because of methodological weaknesses in research on children of incarcerated mothers, we do not fully understand how maternal incarceration shapes children’s short- and long-term life course outcomes.

The ARC Discovery project has two overarching aims:

  1. To determine whether or not maternal incarceration affects children’s psychological and social development and how this links to children’s antisocial and offending outcomes.
  2. To build from existing criminological theories to develop an evidence-based, theoretical model of the mechanisms by which maternal incarceration exerts its effect on children.

Research Plan: The successful candidate will develop a research project that draws from interviews with mothers in prison, their children and their children’s caregivers, as well as mothers on probation and their children. The PhD candidate will be expected to contribute to the collection of primary data within the ARC project and to work alongside other students and project staff. The project is housed in the Griffith Criminology Institute and the candidate will have the opportunity to participate in the professional development activities offered through the Institute.


Year 1: Conduct literature review; develop research questions within scope of aims of ARC Project; interview training; data collection.

Year 2: Data collection; analyse data, write 1st paper.

Year 3: Analyse data; write 2nd paper; write thesis; present paper at international conference.

Travel for data collection and transcription of interviews will be supported from the ARC Discovery Project budget in consultation with the project investigators.

Other Important information:

The successful applicant will join an innovative team of researchers at the Griffith Criminology Institute undertaking research on prison and the family. As a doctoral student, you will develop expertise in cutting edge criminology, gain experience in research design and methods, and produce insights that may lead to improved social and wellbeing outcomes for justice-affected mothers and their children.

Applicants should be available to start in early 2019 and have the following attributes:

  • An undergraduate degree Class I Honours in an appropriate discipline (such as criminology, psychology, sociology, social work, or some combination of these areas)
  • An ability to work with quantitative and qualitative data, with specific experience or interest in qualitative research
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and willingness to work in a team environment
  • A driver’s licence to enable travel to prisons and communities to conduct interviews
  • Hold a blue card or be blue card eligible in order to interview children and young people
  • Be intending to enrol full-time in the doctoral program through the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Please Note: Should this listing mention details of an available scholarship, it is your responsibility to confirm the specifics with the university / institute prior to applyiing. Terms and conditions are in some cases subject to change and are not always reflected immediately within listings.

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Further Information / Application Enquiries

Prof Susan Dennison